Update On Fulling Mill Cottage Spring 2014
by Julie Grant
On Christmas Eve 2013 West Sussex suffered major flooding. This included the village of Fittleworth where our inherited 16th century property, Fulling Mill Cottage, lies in a valley adjacent to Fittleworth Common. Having spent the last 3 years clearing and renovating the cottage and grounds we were terrified of what damage may have been caused by the relentless deluge.
Tommy and I set out that morning fearing the worst. After completing a 40 mile detour in an attempt to avoid severe flooding and road closures we finally arrived at the cottage. The gardens and orchard were wet but not flooded. The stream and drainage ditches were higher than we had ever seen them but not overflowing.
We held our breath on entering the cottage – only to find that everything was as dry as a bone. The heavy thatched roof had kept out the rain and the surface water gullies had diverted it away from the cottage into the drainage ditches. The new under floor drainage had helped enormously. We were relieved but equally saddened everyone that suffered so much damage from the flooding.
Most of the exterior to FMC is now complete bar some re pointing, that can only be done in warm weather, due to the setting of the lime render. We have started on the interior of the cottage repairing the scullery walls and reinstating the ceiling. A new staircase is now in place leading to the upper rooms and we have started to re-lay the upper floorboards.
Tommy has also been putting up the staves and lathes on the walls and ceilings in readiness for the daub and lime plaster. This is a very time consuming task as each lathe has to be individually inserted and nailed into place. So far he has finished the library and one of the lower ground floor rooms.
One of the most difficult things to undertake was the installation of the electricity supply. In a house that only ever had one light bulb and no hot water - it was so hard to envisage the rooms with plug points and switches and immersion boiler. After much careful thought and a lot of help and advice from our electricians the first fix is now complete.
There is still a lot to do but, considering that the actual house renovation only started in March 2013 we feel that we have made great progress.
A Large Nesting Box
In early spring, internal works were put on hold for a time as a family of robins nested in an aperture, at the side of the chimney, in the parlour. They gained entry from under the eaves and were soon followed by a family of nuthatches nesting inside the main gable, jackdaws in the chimney and blackbirds on an upper shelf. Fulling Mill Cottage became one giant nesting box. This gave us the opportunity to concentrate on the landscaping. To save costs we undertook the creation of the driveway ourselves. Tons of mud had to be removed and a new permeable base constructed and dressed with gravel. It has made such a difference to the appearance of the property and also the drainage.
We are pleased to report that all our chicks fledged successfully and have now joined the throng of wildlife that inhabits the land around Fulling Mill Cottage.
In the woodland we have cleared some of the dense holly bushes and on the banks of the stream we have coppiced some of the overgrown hazels – thus letting in more light and allowing more flora to develop. Already the ferns and bluebells have started to spread.
Dragon and damsel flies are abundant along with water boatman and other beneficial creatures and numerous birds come to bathe in the shallows.
As homage to the original, old vegetable garden, we have created a small veg patch with raised, wooden beds in which we have planted salad potatoes, shallots, runner beans etc.
The orchard trees were full of blossom this year and once again snowdrops, wild narcissi, primroses, cowslips and bluebells all performed beautifully in succession. Now we have a wonderful display of buttercups, oxeye daisies and shy spotted orchids for the onset of summer.
The flower gardens have bloomed early this year – the roses are stunning. We have added some more homemade, rustic arches and have sown lots of hardy annuals in the flower beds all, of course, with a value for wildlife.
A new border of dark red and purple flowers has been planted in front of the cottage to remember the WW1 centenary. Hopefully, the border will continue to flourish over the years as tribute to those that fought for our freedom in the Great War.
Photos by Tommy Grant
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